African Union elects its first woman leader

South African Home Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma attends the African Union summit on July 15, 2012 in Addis Ababa.

Story highlights

  • Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is South Africa's home affairs minister
  • She is also the ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma
  • She had to claim a two-thirds majority to win the election

The African Union has elected Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to lead the 54-nation bloc after a hotly contested election.

The 63-year-old South African home affairs minister is the first woman to hold the post and is the ex-wife of South African President Jacob Zuma.

Sunday's election, which took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, follows a stalemate in January that left 69-year-old incumbent Jean Ping of Gabon in power after neither side could secure the necessary two-thirds majority.

The run up to the election largely split the continent in two, with West and Francophone Africa firmly behind Ping, while Zuma's counterparts in the Southern African Development Community firmly backed her bid.

Challenges are likely to come quickly for the new head of the AU as she deals with the aftermath of recent coups in Guinea Bissau and Mali. Ping was criticized as being slow and ineffective in his response to last year's coup in Cote D'Ivoire and the revolution in Libya.

Zuma is a more "professional, more accountable and more proficient" person than Ping, said Mehari Maru with the Institute of Security Studies in Addis Ababa, but warned it would likely take months for a change in leadership strategy to take place.

      CNN recommends

    • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

      North Korea nuclear dream video

      As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
    • Photos: Faces of the world

      Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
    • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

      How to fix a soccer match

      Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
    • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

      15 biggest souvenir-buying no-no's

      It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.